Politics & Government

Campaign Watchdog: Beshear's budget-cutting claims mostly true

The statement: "Then, I slashed spending by over a billion dollars, creating the smallest government in 20 years."

— Gov. Steve Beshear in a television ad this week about fiscal responsibility.

The ruling: Mostly true

The facts: Beshear, who will face Republican Senate President David Williams in the Nov. 8 general election, has been forced to make eight "appropriation reductions" since he took office in December 2007.

They total about $1.1 billion and include cuts that came after budgets were approved by the legislature and cuts mandated in the legislature's budget bills.

At the same time, the state's General Fund expenditures have declined by $1 billion.

According to the Legislative Research Commission's Office of Budget Review, the state's General Fund dropped from $9.57 billion in fiscal year 2008 to $8.56 billion in fiscal year 2010. General Fund expenditures for fiscal year 2011, which ends June 30, are projected to hit $8.55 billion.

Still, some of Beshear's political opponents accurately point out that total spending by state government has increased since Beshear took office. But that's because federal funding allocated to Kentucky has increased significantly over the past three years — from $6.07 billion in fiscal year 2008 to $8.06 billion this fiscal year.

In all, the state spent $21.3 billion in fiscal year 2008, compared to an estimated $24.7 billion this year.

Beshear's claim of creating "the smallest government in 20 years" is more problematic.

The campaign ad leaves the impression that state government is spending less than it did 20 years ago. It is not.

But there are fewer state workers than at any point in the past two decades, which is what the Beshear campaign says the ad is referencing.

The state Personnel Cabinet reports that state government had 32,365 full-time employees on Jan. 1, 2011. The last administration that had fewer full-time employees was in 1989, when there were 32,331 employees on Jan. 1, 1989.